Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive



Wednesday, June 14, 2000

MEDIA ADVISORY:

GARY GRAHAM SCHEDULED TO BE EXECUTED

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on Gary Graham who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m., Thursday, June 22nd.

FACTS

Gary Graham was convicted and sentenced to death for the capital murder of Bobby Lambert during the course of attempting to rob him in a grocery store parking lot in Houston, Texas on May 13, 1981. This crime was the beginning of a seven day crime spree in which Graham committed numerous violent felony crimes.

On the evening of May 13, 1981, Bobby Lambert stopped at a Safeway store in Houston to buy groceries. As Lambert headed to his car in the well-lit parking lot of the grocery store, Graham approached him from behind and began touching Lambert's pants pockets looking for money. Graham then turned to face Lambert, grabbed him by the neck and held a gun to Lambert's head. Bernadine Skillern, who was sitting in her car in the store parking saw Graham and began honking her horn. Graham then turned, looked directly at Skillern, and then standing his with arms fully extended, Graham shot Lambert in the chest. Lambert fell against a car in the parking lot and slid to the ground.

As Graham ran away, Skillern followed him in her car with her headlights on, across the parking lot. Shortly after Skillern began following Graham, he stopped and looked directly at her. At that point, Skillern drove away.

Graham was arrested on May 20, 1981 when he was found naked and asleep in the apartment of Lisa Blackburn, a 57-year-old woman whom he had kidnapped, robbed, and raped prior to passing out in her bed.

Graham was tried and found guilty of the capital murder of Bobby Lambert by a jury in October of 1981.

EVIDENCE/RELATED INFORMATION

CRIMINAL HISTORY

The day after Graham murdered Bobby Lambert, he went on a violent six-day crime spree.

Subsequent to the instant capital murder conviction, Graham pleaded guilty to and was sentenced to twenty-year concurrent sentences for ten different aggravated robberies committed May 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, and 20, 1981

COURT APPEALS TIMELINE

During his16 year appeals process, Graham has had numerous claims considered and rejected by state and federal appellate courts. Those claims include allegations of procedural error by the trial court, ineffective assistance of counsel, competence to be executed, cruel and unusual punishment, lack of due process, the racial and age composition of the grand jury, the constitutionality of Texas' death penalty system, and factual innocence. Graham has repeatedly put forth the names of new witnesses who either purport or provide an alibi, allege he was not the shooter or otherwise bring into question the effectiveness of his counsel. The courts have heard his arguments and determined that they are not meritorious.

ALIBI WITNESSES

In 1987, six years after Graham was tried and sentenced to death, he submitted four affidavits to the courts from close friends, neighbors and family members claiming for the first time that Graham was with them on the night of the murder. The trial court held a hearing in January 1988 at which Graham was allowed to present the testimony of these alibi witnesses, but he chose to present testimony from only two of them. A number of statements made by those witnesses were contradictory. After the hearing, the judge made written findings that the testimony of those two witnesses was not credible. Updated affidavits from those witnesses were presented to the trial court again in 1993, and again the judge found that the statements made in the affidavits were not credible. In both instances, the Court of Criminal Appeals adopted the findings made by the trial court that the affidavits and testimony of these witnesses was not credible.

IDENTIFICATION WITNESSES

In 1993, almost 12 years after the murder of Bobby Lambert and more than five years after the alibi witnesses' affidavits and testimony were ruled to be not credible, Graham presented the trial court with affidavits from other witnesses who were at the crime scene on the night of the murder and from the defense investigator at the time of the original trial. This time, the trial court ruled that the affidavits from some of the crime scene witnesses and the defense investigator were not credible or not reliable and that the affidavits from some other crime scene witnesses, who had not witnessed the actual shooting, including Ronald Hubbard, did not undermine the testimony given and identification made by Bernadine Skillern. The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with the findings made by the trial court with regard to the identification witnesses.

In 2000, more than nineteen years after the murder of Bobby Lambert, and more than seven years after the affidavits from crime scene witnesses were ruled to be not credible or not undermining of Skillern's testimony, Graham has submitted a clemency petition, with affidavits of two other crime scene witnesses alleging that it undermines the testimony of Skillern. Those affidavits are from Sherian Etuk and Ronald Hubbard. Neither of these crime scene witnesses even claim they saw the actual shooting. In 1993, state courts considered a similar affidavit from Hubbard and ruled that it did not undermine Skillern's testimony because he was not a witness to the shooting. The problem with his affidavit today, as well as that of Sherian Etuk, remains the same. Neither one was a witness to the shooting.

In addition is Sherian Etuk and Ronald Hubbard had testified during Graham's trial that the shooter was not Gary Graham, as they are now, the State could have introduced rebuttal evidence in the guilt or innocence phase of the trial regarding the other crimes Graham committed during his six day crime spree, instead of having to wait until the punishment phase.

INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL

Graham has raised numerous complaints alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. State and federal courts have found these claims lacking merit. In fact, during the 1988 hearing at which two of Graham's alibi witnesses testified, both of his trial attorneys also testified. In his written findings, the judge who conducted the hearing found that Graham told his attorneys that he had spent the evening with his girlfriend but could not provide them with a name, address or description of her, that Graham never provided his trial attorneys with the names of any potential alibi witnesses, and that no person had ever voluntarily presented themselves to his trial counsel as such. The judge also found that Graham's trial counsel had provided reasonably effective assistance in the investigation and preparation of his trial and that their actions were reasonable based upon the information supplied to them by Graham while they were representing him.

The following is a chronology of Graham's court appeals:

RELATED CIVIL MATTERS

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Contact Mark Heckmann, Heather Browne, or Tom Kelley at (512) 463-2050